The lungs are the body's "breathing pump." They get help get oxygen into the bloodstream and carbon dioxide out of the body. If you can't breathe, nothing else matters.
COPD and Chronic Bronchitis
More than 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. Another 16 million have COPD but do not know it. This means that over 32 million Americans suffer from COPD.
When you have COPD it is more difficult to move the air in and out of your lungs. The main cause is years of smoking.
Symptoms of COPD are:
- Extreme mucus production
- Shortness of breath, especially with exercise
- Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe)
- Chest tightness
These symptoms are due to permanent airway obstruction caused airway inflammation. The reduced airflow hurts the lung's ability to deliver oxygen to the body and to remove carbon dioxide waste.
COPD is not a curable disease, but is treatable. Instead of trying to cure COPD, the focus of treatment is to:
- Slow down the damage to the lung
- Relieve symptoms, such as shortness of breath and cough
- Build up overall body fitness
- Decrease flare-ups
- Improve quality of life
Asthma is a common disease that occurs in the airways of the lungs known as the bronchial tubes. About 12 to 15 million Americans are affected by asthma. Asthma is the most common childhood chronic disease, affecting around 10 percent to 12 percent of all children in the United States. Most kids who develop the disease begin to have symptoms by age five, but symptoms can arise later in childhood as well.
Allergens, environmental triggers, or infections cause the muscles surrounding these airways to tighten up, making it more difficult to breathe. This tightening is called a "bronchospasm."
In some cases the airways can become swollen or filled with mucus as well, making breathing even more difficult.
Many people first have signs of the disease in childhood, but it's important to note asthma can occur for the first time at any age. Particularly vulnerable are those with a family history of asthma or those with a history of allergies or exposure to tobacco smoke. Some people also have a form of the disease known as exercise-induced asthma, which is triggered by strenuous physical activity.
The most common asthma symptoms include:
- Coughing, especially at night
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
There are no cures, but with appropriate medication and lifestyle changes, asthma can be managed and controlled by the following:
- Anti-inflammatories, including inhaled and oral steroids
- Bronchodilators (short and long acting)
- Combination medications that combine several of the above types of medications.